Contributed by P. O. Wood
Once upon a time there was a busy Railway Office. Inside, fifteen busy people scratched away producing writings of great importance to the commerce and industry on which their meagre salaries depended. Two of these hard-working clerks, Bill Bodle and Ben Sunshine, were tea addicts, the former being Chairman of the Office Tea Committee and the latter pro. tem. Treasurer and keeper of the Tea Fund.
Now it transpired over the years that the onerous task of making the tea weighed more and more heavily upon the shoulders of the unfortunate Bodle and Sunshine, partly due to their addiction and partly due to two of their colleagues. One, a certain McSumph, whose exemplary ability (in his opinion) in the copying of figures from Goods invoices into Statistics books, undoubted experience (thirty-one years in the starting grade) and great age, had decided that tea making was beneath his dignity. The other, Plodd, a spotty youth whose willingness to work was only exceeded by his incompetence and extreme lassitude - in short, "couldn't be bothered - I'd rather do without - besides, I pay my dues", rather than admit the truth, which was that be hadn't a clue how to make tea. However, with a small incentive, he would soon learn.
Gradually the rot set in. McPhwat, a lanky ex-Catering Corps Corporal, decided that 'If they wasn't, he weren't". Quilch, a dumpy, moon-faced chap whose only talent was the ability to play music in such a manner as is only appreciated by deaf people, followed suit, until, as one clerk or another manifested an excuse, the only two regular tea makers left were our two heroes, to wit, Bodle and Sunshine. A feeling of being the office dogsbodies developed, and this oppressive feeling grew as months wore on. Something to encourage their colleagues to participate in the tea-making was desperately needed. ideas came and were eliminated until, after nearly a week's hard thinking, a master plan evolved in the mind of our Sunshine and, after some consultations with Bodle, "Operation Credits" came into being. One morning, a notice was pinned to the wall:-
As you will know, the Tea Fund makes a small profit, and, to encourage Fair Participation in the Making of Tea and Going for Messages, a Credit System is to be adopted. This will allow the profits accruing from the tea fund to be distributed to each member of the office in direct proportion to the time and/or effort he puts into the Tea Fund. At the end of each year the credits attributable to each individual will be added, and any monies surplus to the requirements of the Tea Fund will be distributed to each man in proportion to the number of Credits held. The Tea Fund is at present £3/5/6d in surplus (May)
Credits may be claimed as follows:-
Making the Tea 2 Credits Taking a cup in to the boss 1 Credit Getting out tea things 2 Credits Putting away tea things 2 Credits Going for messages (Tea Fund only) 6 Credits Collecting the Tea Money 4 Credits
Credits should be claimed on the sheet below at the time the duties are performed.
That day will be remembered as a momentous one in the history of the Office! McSumph made the tea. (As befitted his Senior status, all had agreed that he should be the first to make credits.)
"When", he boomed sonorously (he had a sonorous voice) "is the tea going to run out? I shall purchase more when it runs out."
Plodd, ever short of cash, as his 17/7¼d salary would indicate, asked meekly to be allowed to take in the Boss's tea. Bodle, in the middle of his third cup, was only too delighted to agree. Plodd went, returned, and marked up his credit.
In the weeks that followed, a furious activity settled over the section. Tea was made in the morning twice (instead of once) . At lunchtime thrice (to suit differing lunch hours) and twice in the afternoon. Bodle was only too happy to allow his colleagues free rein in the making of tea. He always maintained that he worked at his best with a cup of tea at his side, and true, in line with his prodigious consumption of tea both the quality and quantity of his output increased, so much so that, by the time three months had elapsed, 1911 credits had been claimed. McSumph was the leader (surprise, surprise) with 668, Plodd with 630, and in the middle of the field were Bodle and Sunshine with 96 and 95. Only one little cloud marred the horizon. The surplus in the Tea Fund had dropped to £2/18/3½d!
Neither Bodle nor Sunshine was particularly worried. Up till then they had enjoyed limitless supplies of tea without having to make a single pot! The two of them had taken on the sole task of collecting the tea money. After some consideration, the pair decided on a mild change of policy. For some two weeks one or other of the pair was always the first to make the tea. As a result, their share of the credits grew. Questions were asked about the surplus in the Tea Fund. "Several Pounds" was the vague reply. McSumph, visualising his proportion of the credits (and the shareout) gradually reducing, brought seniority into play and, seemingly with reluctance, our two heroes relented, resumed their semi-active status and confined themselves to collecting the money.
Six months after the start of the scheme, 3815 Credits had been claimed. McSumph and Plodd still led the field with 1247 and 1l77 respectively. Bodle and Sunshine were further down the list with 276 and 273. The surplus in the tea fund was 5/6¾d. With three weeks to go till the shareout, things were "Just about right", as Sunshine confided to Bodle. And so they were. On 22nd December. the day chosen for the shareout, the surplus in the Tea Fund was precisely 5¼d. A notice appeared on the wall at precisely 9 a.m.:
The surplus cash in the tea fund will be divided in proportion to the number of credits against each name shown below:-
No of % Credits of total 1. Mr. McSumph 1,400 33 2. Mr. Plodd 1,324 31 3. Mr. Entwistle 245 6 4. Mr. Furd 45 1 5. Mr. McGraw 309 7 6. Mr. Melvin 38 1 7. Mr. Umbleton 29 1 8. Mr. Gruntphuttock 17 - 9. Mr. Berkinshaw 117 3 10. Mr. Grimple 33 1 11. Mr. Pennywhistle 22 - 12. Mr. McPhwat 25 1 13. Mr. Quilch 56 1 14. Mr. Bodle 298 7 15. Mr. Sunshine 295 7
Total Credits Claimed 4,253 Surplus in Tea Fund: £0/0/5¼d.
Would credit holders please submit their claims in writing before 12 noon to the undersigned.
(Signed) Billium Bodle (Chairman)
No claims were received. At a meeting of the Tea Fund Committee that afternoon, it was agreed 13 to 2 that the scheme should be abandoned, although it had served its purpose well. Messrs. Bodle and Sunshine were re-elected to their positions as Chairman and Treasurer by 13 Votes to 2 in each case.
Bodle is now the Boss and has his tea brought in by Sunshine. McSumph is still the senior man in the starting grade and retires next year. Plodd is in jail, serving 5 years for selling his mother into white slavery. Everybody shares in the tea making, except McSumph who, all agree, did more than his fair share in the past. Quilch died in an explosion in his flat last year - some say it was a faulty gas stove - fourteen others know differently. Plodd's replacement is an easy-going wee chap named Daudle.
First published in late 1976